They say that having one child is a life-changer, and having a second is a game-changer. In my opinion, no truer words have never been spoken. And there was a time, when I was pregnant, that I worried about changing the game. After all, the game was going pretty good, so why mess with a good thing? But our daughter fit right in the moment she arrived. Of course that's not to say it was always easy, the second child syndrome phenomenon — when kid number two gets the short end of the proverbial stick — is real. You'll feel bad about it, yes, but in the end everything turns out OK and so does your child.
The obvious differences between how you approach Child One and Child Two are apparent right away, including in pregnancy (if you were pregnant with both of your children, of course). My first pregnancy occupied my every waking thought. It's all I could focus on at times and I was always extremely aware of the fact that I was gestating. But I remember this one time, when I was pregnant with my second and talking to someone at a work event and he kept obliquely referencing my pregnancy and I had no idea what he was talking about because I'd completely forgotten I was even growing a human. (I was eight months along at this point, too.) The novelty of being pregnant for the first time had not only warn off, but once you have that first baby your attention is divided, well, basically for the rest of your life.
That divided attention was a source of guilt for a long time, but the fact of the matter is that the game does change when you have baby number two. The good news? You learn to play just fine.
They're Not As Big A Deal To Family Or Friends
That's not to say that people aren't excited to meet your little one or that they're not happy for you. But the fact of the matter is that the first child is always a bigger deal. And if it's the first baby in the family in your generation or the first baby in a friend group? That's an even bigger deal. Never underestimate the power of primacy. With baby number one I had, like, three baby showers and had a million people visit me in the hospital. Baby two? "Oh. She's here? Mazel tov! Can't wait to meet her at some point."
All The Hand-Me-Downs
My second child had clothing of her own, but she had far fewer new things than her older brother did because old onesies were perfectly fine to reuse. But, in my opinion, this is just smart. For one, babies don't care about clothes. Even most kids don't particularly care if something is new or not. My youngest is 4 and some of her favorite articles of clothing are her brother's hand-me-downs. For another thing, having pictures of both babies in the same shirt? Freakin' adorable, come on now.
This was a bigger problem back in ye olde days of actual print photography. Camera phones have made it a lot easier to get pictures of everyone all the time. But at the same time, there are still some pictures you will have less of when it comes to your second child, including but not limited to:
- Belly pics. I had a month-by-month collection with my first child, taken on our really nice camera, no less! I think I have two pictures of my belly during my second pregnancy.
- Month-by-month progression pics. Generally speaking, first children get dedicated photo shoots every month to the day with cute outfits and a fancy background. Second kid? "Oh, they were five months last week? Hurry up and take the picture."
- Pictures of them by themselves, because the older sibling will always want to creep on in there.
No Baby Book
(Though, let's be honest: you probably crapped out half-way through your oldest child's baby book, too, didn't you?)
Not As Much One-On-One Time
My first maternity leave was essentially just a 3-month-long cuddlefest. A solid 75 percent of my time was spent on my couch holding my son (because he needed to be held all the time). I had no other responsibilities or obligations, but I can't say the same when my second baby arrived. That's not to say we didn't get some awesome snuggles in, but I also needed to tend to my oldest child, who, by this point, was a toddler. So instead of gazing into my daughter's eyes as I sat calmly breastfeeding her, I had her in a Moby Wrap 24/7 as I chased my energetic 2-year-old son all over the backyard.
(Though, I will say that this on-the-go bonding was its own version of wonderful.)
Parents Not As Easily Manipulated
Parents learn as they go along, and one of the things they learn is how to get wise to their kids' shenanigans. Obviously the learning curve with the eldest is steeper because we've never done this before and really don't know just how devious small humans can be. Second kid? I can smell that bullsh*t from a mile away, child. Don't even try to bring that around here. As such, the oldest kid is more likely to be able to pull one over on you. Second kid is going to have to wake up pretty early in the morning to fool you.
(Though the other side to this is that, after dealing with an oldest child, you have fewer f*cks to give about your second and become a bit more permissive. My younger siblings were allowed to do so much that was forbidden to me, the overprotected oldest kid.)
Less Parental Idealism
If you're anything like me, you had a lot of Big Researched Plans for how you were going to raise your first child. Your parenting philosophy with your second was probably more like: "Oh. Whatever works."
Look, it's not that we don't have lofty goals for all our children, because we do, but they're a lot loftier for our first child because of our complete lack of practical parenting experience. And even though we probably won't stick to all of those goals (or, let's face it, possibly any of those goals) I think there's a value in aiming high... and we aim less high with the second. But that's OK, too, because we're also a bit more realistic, confident, and immediately flexible, which can be a really good thing, too.
Less Educational Prep
Maybe this says more about me than parents in general but when it came to things like learning the ABCs and colors and shapes and all that good stuff, we were so on top of it with our first kid. We did loads of educational books and flash cards and all that to prep him for kindergarten. He knew all his letters before he turned 2. He could tell you what a trapezoid was before he hit pre-K. And part of that is that he's more into that sort of thing (he's very methodical whereas our daughter is a complete free-spirit) but the other part of that is, with two kids, we had less time to just sit and recite colors.
They'll Be Compared To The Older Sibling
All the time, for better and for worse. And I hate that so much because kids should just be kids and taken for who they are. It is what it is, but grrr.
They're More Likely To Be Bossed Around
I say this as an oldest child myself: we're natural "organizers." We like things a certain way and it's up to us to get the younger siblings on board. Now, some of you may call that "bossy" but I call it... OK, it's bossy. (Or let's called it "dictatorial" to avoid weird gendered language.)
Younger siblings are ripe for the bossing. It's their lot in life. Some of them will be cool with that. Others will fight against it. (More still will be cool with it for a while and fight against it as they get older.)
They'll Want To Be A "Big Kid" Sooner
Having an older kid in the house will mean that second children will want to do everything that kid is doing, whether or not the second kid is capable or ready for whatever it is. This will lead to a lot of tears and frustration. Sorry kiddo.